Written by Timothy Nguyen
After wishing my dad a good day at work, I grabbed my tea and backpack, and got myself out of the car onto the overcast, humid, bustling parking lot of Fashion Square mall.
I arrived at the festival at around 8:40 AM, about 20 minutes earlier than my set time of 9 AM, but regardless of my early arrival, I found myself getting a headstart on the work of the day. In one fell swoop I shotgunned my tea, threw my backpack to the vendor check-in desk, strapped on my fanny-pack, and began my long day ahead.
After helping carrying the initial wave of vendors goods, tables, friers and other commodities, I finally remembered to go sign in, turning my 20 minutes early, into 10 minutes late. After I took the time to finally clock in, I rushed back to my job of Vendor check-in, my backpack still at the base of the table thankfully, sat down, pull out some lychee jellies I had packed the day before and took a quick shot of 1, whilst offering them to the team working at vendor-check in. Managing the check in and arrival of vendors is a vigorous job, as the vendors relentlessly arrive with legions of wagons, cars, vans, trucks, both of the moving and pick up variety, filled with their precious cargo of food, electronics, cosmetics, clothing, jewellery and other commodities they planned to sell or exhibit during this festival. Wave after Wave, Horde after Horde of vendors rushing in, pounding us with questions, forms and requests of volunteers.
The vendor check-in team, consisting of Incharges Me and Alex De Guzman, along with the ardent and diligent volunteers: Rohan Savalani, Sandy Xia and Takkai Wong, with the aid of a man named Roy and 2 others that I unfortunately did not get the name of, stood our ground well against the hundreds of vendors coming at us. The waves of vendors came in ready to rock while we, were ready to roll, and hastily guided them to their spots and made last minute changes and arrangements, while still maintaining REACH’s trademark hospitality and surprising maturity that many have come to love and embrace. Even with spots of disputing and confused vendors, the check-in process was a vigorous task but successful nonetheless, with all the vendors being set-up and ready to go for phase 2 of the day: The Festival.
Me and Alex sent the team off one by one to go on their breaks, as the arriving vendors grinded to a halt, eventually leaving me sitting at our table. I cleaned up our table, laden with pens, markers, boards, maps, forms and lists amongst other things, and before I got my lunch for the day I took one last round and ensured that all vendor’s needs were met, and unfortunately found a problem. The gigantic Orlando Korean Cultural Center booth, with their cooking stations, televisions, speakers and other electronics had blown out their plug! We quickly told them to move locations, first to the end of the hallway, and had fully set up their larger cooking section only for that socket to die out as well! We had told them to move 2 times more, the power going out over and over and over, again and again again! I must have carried jars of Kimchi and Korean Radish (Mu or 무) so many times that I must have gained the smell of the two mixed together. Eventually we settled on placing different sections of the cooking sections around the festival which eventually worked out for them. The disgruntled volunteers with OKCC eventually found themselves dealing with the same problem, or rather blessing everyone else has been, swarms of guests. After dealing with that headache, I finally was able to take my break and eat my lunch, graciously provided to us by Thai Island. Alex, Sandy and I ate together, eating delicious curry chicken and pad thai. We found ourselves in a grace period, a grace period where falling asleep seemed to be a very attractive option. But alas, we knew that falling asleep would be an unwise decision, and instead relaxed before being separated off into different jobs for the day.